on 2-corinthians 4 :8
We are troubled on every side - We have already seen, in the notes on the ninth chapter of the preceding epistle, that St. Paul has made several allusions to those public games which were celebrated every fifth year at the Isthmus of Corinth; and those games have been in that place particularly described. In this and the three following verses the apostle makes allusion to the contests at those games; and the terms which he employs in these verses cannot be understood but in reference to those agonistical exercises to which he alludes. Dr. Hammond has explained the whole on this ground; and I shall here borrow his help. There are four pairs of expressions taken from the customs of the agones.
1. Troubled on every side, yet not distressed.
2. Perplexed, but not in despair.
3. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Cast down, but not destroyed.
Three of these pairs belong to the customs of wrestling; the fourth, to that of running in the race.
Troubled on every side, etc. - Εν παντι θλιβομενοι. The word θλιβεσθαι, belongs clearly to παλη wrestling. So says Aristotle, Rhet. lib. i. cap. 5, (and the Scholiast on that place), ὁ γαρ δυναμενος - θλιβειν και κατεχειν, παλαιστικος· "He that can gripe his adversary, and take him up, is a good wrestler;" there being two dexterities in that exercise:
1. to gripe, and
2. to throw down, which Hesychius calls ωθειν and κρατειν; the first of these is here mentioned, and expressed by θλιβεσθαι, to be pressed down; to which is here opposed, as in a higher degree, στενοχωρεισθαι, to be brought to distress, as when one cannot get out of his antagonist's hands, nor make any resistance against him. So in Isaiah: στενοχωρουμενοι ου δυναμεθα μαχεσθαι, we are brought to such extremities that we can fight no longer.
Perplexed, but not in despair - Απορουμενοι, αλλ' ουκ εξαπορουμενοι. The word απορεισθαι, to be in perplexity, is fit for the wrestler, who being puzzled by his antagonist's skill knows not what to do: so in Hesychius, απορουντες, αμηχανουντες, they that are not able to do or attempt any thing, yet are not εξαπορουμενοι, they miscarry not finally, ορθοι ἱσταμενοι, stand after all upright; ουκ απογινωσκοντες και ἡττωμενοι, despair not, nor are they overcome, but find a happy issue out of all, being at last conquerors.
on 2-corinthians 4 :8
We are troubled - We the apostles. Paul here refers to some of the trials to which he and his fellow laborers were subjected in making known the gospel. The "design" for which he does it seems to be to show them:
(1) What they endured in preaching the truth;
(2) To show the sustaining power of that gospel in the midst of afflictions; and,
(3) To conciliate their favor, or to remind them that they had endured these things on their account, 2 Corinthians 4:12-15.
Perhaps one leading design was to recover the affections of those of the Corinthians whose heart had been alienated from him, by showing them how much he had endured on their account. For this purpose he freely opens his heart to them, and tenderly represents the many and grievous pressures and hardships to which love to souls, and theirs among the rest, had exposed him - Doddridge. The whole passage is one of the most pathetic and beautiful to be found in the New Testament. The word rendered "troubled" (θλιβόμενοι thlibomenoi, from θλίβω thlibō) may have reference to wrestling, or to the contests in the Grecian games. It properly means, to press, to press together; then to press as in a crowd where there is a throng Mark 3:9; then to compress together Matthew 7:14; and then to oppress, or compress with evils, to distress, to afflict, 2 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 1:6. Here it may mean, that he was encompassed with trials, or placed in the midst of them so that they pressed upon him as persons do in a crowd, or, possibly, as a man was close pressed by an adversary in the games. He refers to the fact that he was called to endure a great number of trials and afflictions. Some of those trials he refers to in 2 Corinthians 7:5. "When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears."
On every side - In every respect. In every way. We are subjected to all kinds of trim and affliction.
Yet not distressed - This by no means expresses the force of the original; nor is it possible perhaps to express it in a translation. Tyndale renders it, "yet we are not without our shift." The Greek word used here (στενοχωρούμενοι stenochōroumenoi) has a relation to the word which is rendered "troubled." It properly means "to crowd into a narrow place; to straiten as to room; to be so straitened as not to be able to turn oneself." And the idea is, that though he was close pressed by persecutions and trials, yet he was not so hemmed in that he had no way to turn himself; his trials did not wholly prevent motion and action. He was not so closely pressed as a man would be who was so straitened that he could not move his body, or stir hand or foot. He had still resources; he was permitted to move; the energy of his piety, and the vigor of his soul could not be entirely cramped and impeded by the trials which encompassed him. The Syriac renders it: "In all things we are pressed, but are not suffocated." The idea is, he was not wholly discouraged, and disheartened, and overcome. He had resources in his piety which enabled him to bear up under these trials, and still to engage in the work of preaching the gospel.
We are perplexed - (ἀπορούμενοι aporoumenoi). This word (from ἄπορος aporos, "without resource," which is derived from α a, the alpha privative ("not"), and πόρος poros, way, or exit) means to be without resource; to know not what to do; to hesitate; to be in doubt and anxiety, as a traveler is, who is ignorant of the way, or who has not the means of prosecuting his journey. It means here, that they were often brought into circumstances of great embarrassment, where they hardly knew what to do, or what course to take. They were surrounded by foes; they were in want; they were in circumstances which they had not anticipated, and which greatly perplexed them.
But not in despair - In the margin, "not altogether without help or means." Tyndale renders this: "We are in poverty, but not utterly without somewhat." In the word used here, (ἐξαπορούμενοι exaporoumenoi) the preposition is intensive or emphatic, and means "utterly, quite." The word means to be utterly without resource; to despair altogether; and the idea of Paul here is, that they were not left "entirely" without resource. Their needs were provided for; their embarrassments were removed; their grounds of perplexity were taken away; and unexpected strength and resources were imparted to them. When they did not know what to do; when all resources seemed to fail them, in some unexpected manner they would be relieved and saved from absolute despair. How often does this occur in the lives of all Christians! And how certain is it, that in all such cases God will interpose by his grace, and aid his people, and save them from absolute despair.
on 2-corinthians 4 :8
4:8 We are troubled, and c. - The four articles in this verse respect inward, the four in the next outward, afflictions. In each clause the former part shows the earthen vessels; the latter, the excellence of the power. Not crushed - Not swallowed up in care and anxiety. Perplexed - What course to take, but never despairing of his power and love to carry us through.